How a Palestinian Terrorist Group Uses “Civil-Society” Organizations to Raise, and to Launder, Money

On October 9, the Israeli government formally designated six Palestinian charities as terrorist groups due to their support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—a move that met with predictable condemnations from the UN, the State Department, and self-styled human-rights groups. Since at least 2011, multiple PFLP operatives have been hired by the designated charities. Matthew Levitt assesses the evidence that these organizations act as fronts for the PFLP, which even the EU considers a terrorist group. Between 2011 and 2019, the PFLP murdered at least six people, in addition to countless foiled attacks:

Then, on August 23, 2019, PFLP operatives planned and detonated a bomb at a popular West Bank hiking spot, killing seventeen-year-old Rina Shnerb and wounding her father and brother. Two of the PFLP terrorists involved in this attack—one of them, Samer Arbid, charged with recruiting cell members and personally detonating the explosive—were employed by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, one of the recently designated NGOs.

Among the arrested PFLP operatives [after the attack] was Walid Muhammad Hanatsheh, a finance and administration manager for the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC), another PFLP-affiliated NGO. . . . Pulling at the threads of the two NGOs directly tied to PFLP operatives involved in Shnerb’s murder, . . . Israeli authorities began mapping out what they ultimately determined was a network of front organizations providing funds for the PFLP, day jobs and legitimacy for its operatives, and space for secure meetings.

Then, in March 2021, Israeli authorities raided the UHWC headquarters in al-Bireh, searched the premises, and seized files and computers, while also detaining three office employees. In early May 2021, Israel arrested four people affiliated with the UHWC. . . . The defendants were charged with activity in a proscribed organization, conducting illicit money transfers, and fraud, and accused of defrauding European donors by manipulating records to cover funds “in the eight figures” diverted from the NGO to the PFLP. Together, investigators said, the four “duped European donors using financial records doctored to hide cash diversions” to the PFLP.

[I]n a statement to Israeli police, one of the arrested UHWC employees explained that “the PFLP-affiliated institutions are interconnected and serve as the organization’s lifeline financially and organizationally, i.e., money laundering and financing PFLP activity.”

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: NGO, Palestinian terror, PFLP

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy